Doing a major remodel to your home? Whether you have thought about it
this yet or not, deciding to stay or leave is an important decision. Consider the pros and cons of living within a construction zone. If you’re planning a major remodeling project, like an addition, pop top, kitchen or bathroom remodel, and are trying to decide to stay put or temporarily move out it’s crucial that you, as the homeowner, understand what to expect. There are several advantages including proximity to the work, saving money on temporary alternative living arrangements, and security of the job site etc.
There are also several disadvantages like inaccessibility, noise, and cleanliness. While living on site has some major advantages, it still may not be that easy. In this article we’ll go over the top 7 questions to ask yourself when faced with this decision. If you decide to stay you should mentally prepare for the hurdles you could face. These hurdles are often times worth it in the end, but it’s still challenging. Being challenging doesn’t mean it can’t be fun and rewarding. It’s ultimately up to you! Keep on reading for all the questions you need to ask yourself prior to making a decision.
1. What Am I Renovating?
Is your project a complete gut remodel? Is it just one or two rooms or a section of the house? If so, do you need those rooms on a daily basis for your home to function for you and your family? Will your HVAC be in operating order throughout the remodel? Have a top down look at your family’s daily needs and get on the same page with your contractor regarding those needs and how/if those needs can be met or hindered during construction. With a full remodel or addition it typically takes 1-3 months. You likely will not have access to the kitchen or bathrooms and you could potentially create scheduling conflicts with the contractor if you decide to stay.
Communication with your contractor is key at this early stage to help you make a decision. For these larger jobs we’ve seen homeowners will stay with family or friends or even sign a short term lease at another temporary residence until the job is done or at least until the house is livable. When remodeling a critical space, like a master bathroom or kitchen remodel, consider the inaccessibility during construction. If it is a kitchen remodel that takes 2-3 weeks and you decide to stay are you going to be ok with take out or microwave only food? Do you have a dining room that you can set up as a temporary kitchen and use the sink from a bathroom? If these are deal breakers than a kitchen remodel will be too invasive and you will have to find temporary living arrangements. A bathroom remodel can be a tricky if you only have one bathroom in the home and are remodeling it. Your contractor will be able to tell you if the toilet or shower/tub will be unavailable and for how long during construction.
Similarly, if you are doing a master bathroom remodel your master bedroom will also be a mess. Regardless of tarps and other precautions contractors take to keep the mess confined, the dust is just too thin to completely contain. If you have a guest bedroom then plan on staying in there until the bathroom is about 75% completed. Also consider the layout of your home. Do you have multiple entrances or ways to move around your home that allow you to bypass the construction zones? If not you will be going directly through the worksite, which could hinder progress and more importantly be dangerous to you and the workers.
2. Is Temporary Lodging Within My Budget?
What is your total budget for the project? Once you have the proposed job amount from your general contractor is there any room in there for temporary lodging? Some of our clients have even planned vacation during strategic parts of the job when their home is the most inaccessible or the job is the dirtiest, like during demo and rough in. With that said, most jobs benefit from the homeowner making regular visits to the home so be sure you can trust your general contractor to take care of your house while you are away.
Most general contractors will agree that the work can be done faster without having to work around a present homeowner. The reasons for that are pretty obvious. With that said, the bulk of the heavy lifting and the messy work happens during the first 2-4 weeks of construction during demo, rough in, and drywall. If you are going to find temporary lodging we recommend budget for 2-4 weeks depending on your scope of work.
3. Are Health and Safety Valid Concerns During My Particular
If your home and the paint within the home is older than 1978 you may have lead based paint inside the home. This paint can release toxins during sanding and removal. Furthermore, children or even adults with compromised immune systems, such as asthma or organ transplant patients, should consider leaving during at least the beginning phases of construction when air pollutants are at their worse. The dust from the demolition and the sanding from the drywall gets everywhere throughout the home despite all of the efforts to thwart it.
There are also chemical fumes to worry about during spray on painting in the instance you are redoing kitchen or bathroom cabinets.
4. Can I Handle the Mess?
There’s no way around the fact that construction is messy business. This question piggybacks from question 3. There will be dust. Lots of it! It gets everywhere, even in parts of the home that aren’t being worked on and despite the fact that a good general contractor will put up thick plastic tarp to isolate the construction areas. Also, sub contractors don’t focus so much on cleanliness as they go. This is something we stress as construction managers to our sub contractors, but it’s not time effective to clean daily, just to get it messy again first thing in the morning when the workers return.
Sub contractors tend to think more linearly and are focused on getting the job done, not cleaning it up on a daily basis. If you live in a home during a large remodel you will see it everyday. It’s also your home, so you view it through a different lens than a subcontractor. Don’t hold this against them. They are there to construct, not to clean. Expect it to be on the dirty and messy side for at least a little while at the beginning while the major work is done. The dirtier stages include demo, framing, rough in, and drywall installation, which is all normally at the beginning. Work tapers off and the timeline tends to slow towards the end of the job when the finishing items are being installed, so good news there. The bulk of the work that happens at the beginning is relatively quick, but as stated, it is messy. Progress slows towards the end of jobs because of the nature of installing finishes, but at least it’s considerably cleaner to keep your home adequately cleaned.
5. How is My Day-to-Day Life Structured?
Do you work from home? Do you have a morning routine that requires peace and quiet. Does your sleep schedule not align with the schedule of the sub contractors? Does your family sit around the breakfast table before school/work and discuss the day ahead? Construction starts early in the morning. If you value your morning time and don’t want your morning routine to be disrupted then we would advise staying off site for at least the beginning of your project, when the noise and mess are at their peak. We typically start working at 8AM but the sub contractors begin showing up at 7:30AM to prep. The work continues throughout the day until about 4-5PM. Your evenings will be quieter, but your mornings will be compromised.
If you work from home and your work space is in the general vicinity of the construction then you will likely be disturbed by the noises. As stated earlier, some crucial parts to your home will also be blocked off, so if you need to go from your office to your bedroom and you have to go through the kitchen and are planning a kitchen remodel, this will be a challenge and could potentially be a safety concern. If you have children and they have homework and need a quiet space during the day on some days other arrangements will have to be made. Also, if they play sports and you are doing a laundry room or bathroom near a laundry room and the facilities are inoperable during certain phases of the job then you will have to find other laundry accommodations. There are endless scenarios that could happen. It is up to you to decide whether your family is up for the task of living in and around a construction zone.
6. Do I Have the Patience?
Whenever you are facing the undertaking of a large scale remodel your patience will likely be tested if you choose to conduct your daily life in or around the construction site. The hazards of the job site, plus your children, spouse, etc
can make your space seem a bit crowded when you have subcontractors in and out all day. Sometimes you just want a quiet clean place to rest, but this luxury only comes once construction is complete. Children will have to be more closely monitored because of the hazards. Sometimes job sites have exposed wires, open plumbing, machinery and tools, and unstable items such as a stack of bricks or dirt or other heavy materials. We recommend having a designated area for kids during the busier stages of construction, like a playroom or
their bedrooms. As a live in homeowner you’ll see the progress of the job in real time on a daily basis. You’ll more often than not see things throughout this time that you don’t like and you will then relay that to the general contractor. Intuitively this seems like a benefit.
Why it can be a source of unneeded stress for you as the homeowner is that a lot of these problems will already be known to the general contractor or will only look like problems on the surface, when in fact that is just the process for that particular line item. Clients that see the job as frequently as multiple times daily run the risk of overanalyzing a particular scenario that to them seems like a big issue when it really isn’t. Think of it like your car being in the mechanics shop. If the mechanic is doing a job that takes a week to do, are you going to go to the mechanics shop everyday, look at your vehicle that is taken all apart, and analyze the work that the mechanic did for that day? Or rather, are you just going to agree on a budget at the beginning and ask the mechanic to let you know when your vehicle is fixed? Most people don’t bother with the micro details of a technical job like fixing a radiator or changing out an oil pump. Construction, though a different industry, is a service business and operates under the same principles. You are only increasing your stress levels by micro managing a job that you are paying a general contractor to manage.
7. Can I Trust My General Contractor?
Based on everything discussed so far you can tell that your experience during a large scale home renovation is largely the responsibility of the general contractor you choose. Ensure communication methods are laid out and remain open. We like to call this radical transparency. Your contractor should be in tune with your needs since they are the ones who are facilitating the job. They know your needs and desires at this point. They should come prepared to answer your questions before you even have a chance to ask them. They know what to expect during a big renovation since they do it professionally, but you might not. General Contractors should also have protocols for containing and cleaning up work areas. The general contractor will put together a Gantt chart that will highlight timelines and this will all coincide with the containment and execution of the work. As part of the pre-construction meeting with your general contractor all of this will be reviewed and expectations will then set. A general contractor is your partner during the duration of the job. You have to trust that
they are empathetic to your situation and will remain diligent and proactive in keeping your family safe and your home in order during the remodel process no matter which route you decide to take.
A large scale remodel to your family’s home is one of the most rewarding things you can do for them and yourself. Your home is where you spend most of the quality time with your family and it is a place of solitude and safety. There’s nothing quite like taking something existing and putting your own custom touches to it. You could even increase the value of the home by more than you put into it, therefore increasing your equity position as a homeowner. With the magnitude of these benefits comes a price. Larger remodels like kitchen and bath remodels aren’t cheap, nor are they quick. They can be quite the adventure if you are not ready for it and are met with surprise after surprise. Hopefully this article shed some light on what to expect and you know what questions to ask yourself and your contractor when the exciting time comes to make this decision. Answering these questions accurately will ensure the job is done safely, smoothly, and comfortably.